I have a question – or perhaps better put, an observation.
If Joseph traveled to Bethlehem, his hometown, for the census and consequently the birth of his firstborn (albeit not of his loins) – why then was there no “lodging” available to accommodate his family? Scholars insist the factual Nativity scene is littered by generations of sanctimonious storytelling. But the fact remains no one chose to make room. There was no proper place made available – even among kin – for Joseph, Mary and her burgeoning belly. Really???
Here’s my theory…
Since gossip travels at the speed of light, Joseph’s relatives had undoubtedly gotten word of this unplanned pregnancy and the preposterous explanation of how it came about. Hushed conversations and less than approving glances were surely exchanged when the obviously pregnant couple came strolling down Main Street Bethlehem on their well-trod donkey! No doubt the shame that shrouded the couple back in Nazareth followed them to Joseph’s hometown where a somewhat less than joyous reunion greeted them. Thus the “no vacancy” sign flashing over what should have been open arms accommodations.
I realize I’m reading more into the story than the text can support and am probably guilty of projecting my own experience as a child conceived outside the union of marriage. In my case scandal brought about a swift verdict – this illegitimate grandson was not a welcome guest in the family home I was introduced to. Screaming matches exchanged between the front porch and the car I arrived in made that resoundingly clear. My four year old brain recorded every confusing detail of that first encounter. Even as an adult I still understand the sting of rejection based on a pedigree I had no control over. No room indeed.
These reflections are not meant to elicit pity or instill guilt. Every person alive experiences rejection from time to time ad healing is abundantly available for the wounded heart. But let’s allow the tenderness of those scars to sensitize us to those who show up unexpectedly on OUR doorstep. In this fearful, uncomfortable and occupied life what does the sign above our door proclaim to the lonely, the rejected and the overlooked? What kind of reception will they receive? Is there room for kindness, compassion and acceptance…especially for those who hail from less than stellar origins? It’s just something for us to consider this Christmas season and beyond.
It is time to Make Room for Everyone
For the stranger, the rejected and those accustomed to the “no vacancy” sign I suggest an alternate response. For such weary travelers there’s ALWAYS room. We just have to choose to make it.